REVIEW: Owls – “I’m Surprised…”

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Owls
“I’m Surprised…”

by Trevor Johnson

If you want to map out a large portion of the current emo landscape, all you need to do is draw a line between three tracks: American Football’s “Never Meant,” Cap’n Jazz’s “Little League” and Owls’ “Everyone is My Friend.” That’s it. That’s a Mid-Western sized chunk of the past three years of emo right there. It has to be considered at least a mild upset that Tim Kinsella owns two of those songs to brother Mike’s one. But stop the comparison right there. This is music. It makes far more sense to compare these two to say, the Coen Brothers than the Stallones, the Cansecos or the Quaids. The more you tip the scales for Owen, the more you’re probably forgetting the way you felt the first time you heard the fade-in on “Little League.”

And in all honesty, it’s perfectly fair to reference the past as soon as you hear “I’m Surprised…,” especially considering the ways in which the song gives both the familiar and the un-initiated exactly what they’re looking for (even if they had no idea they were looking for it) and precisely what Owls established on their debut all the way back in 2001. Tim Kinsella’s projects will always be largely concerned with grooves, where Mike builds on a feeling. The first half of the song relies on the type of disruptive, harsh, minor-key aura that has popped up often in Joan of Arc. In a fashion that is also reminiscent of Diary (this is some calorie-dense emo, I know), “I’m Surprised…” manages to brood while also pushing its melody. Eventually, things develop into a half-timed stutter-step that feels more akin to American Football than much else in recent memory (which may or may not be saying something): but it’s that softness, that comfort that follows an early onslaught of awkward but enjoyable theory that makes this track undeniably Tim’s. Throughout, we’re treated to lyrics on one observing his rapid aging, his descent into deep, undeniable adulthood. But as this song shows, with its familiar maturity, getting older doesn’t have to mean you didn’t hone any skills much earlier in life. It’s just that for this band, for these people, “earlier” means How Memory Works, and No Good For No One Now, and Analphabetapolothology. Owls is a welcome reappearance in the sense that while others try to simulate, they can simply resume.

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Independent Music & Arts Criticism

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